Minister, Rector, Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is my great pleasure to speak to you here today, future makers of Armenia and Europe. I hope my brief remarks on the changing nature of international relations, the role of the EU and the Nordic model will provoke thoughts and questions.
My basic thesis is that the classical approach to foreign policy and international relations, which has been dominating ever since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, is outdated and unworkable.
Interdependence in things both good and bad, and whether we like the idea or not, is what governs international relations in today’s globalized world. This applies not only to relations between states but also more generally. The concept of absolute sovereignty is a fiction that does not reflect reality any more. The multitude of various interest groups, non-governmental organizations, multinational companies, social media and phenomena like conscious consumer choices are reshaping both domestic politics and international affairs.
Moreover, states can no longer claim the monopoly in international relations. And within states, especially in democracies, the foreign policy leadership has to operate in ever increasing interaction with the people.
In our time, the foreign policy and security policy challenges states face cannot be reduced to a question about who holds control or direct political influence over what geographical area. The challenges and possible solutions are increasingly other than military or dependent on traditional power politics. This is reflected in the expectations of citizens towards their representatives and policy-makers. Today’s top priorities include combating climate change, environmental and social sustainability, economic and financial stability, fight against poverty, radicalization and terrorism, issues related to failed states, cyber threats, natural and man-made disasters, contagious diseases, organized crime and the like.
Access to global commons is already a security policy consideration of growing importance. This means that the international community should enhance cooperation for example in maintaining, developing and protecting the freedom of the seas, space and cyberspace. In any country today, the vital functions of society are increasingly dependent on undisrupted flows of people, energy, money, data, goods and services.
When assessing the challenges of our time, the central factor to be taken into account is the growth of the world’s population. I challenge you to guess how much the global population has grown during my lifetime. It is quite dramatic. Since my birth, the world’s population has already more than tripled, from some 2,3 billion to over 7 billion. At the same time, we have seen a global trend of urbanization and how consumer habits have become ever more demanding. Change has been so rapid that what was still manageable only fifty years ago has already become unsustainable.
It may be that even at best, we only have a few decades time in which to adapt our behavior to the exigency of ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development. This is also highly relevant to the arguments about the relative merits of hard and soft power.
Adequate responses to the current and future security challenges require deeper and wider international cooperation: deepening cooperation in Europe; global cooperation with a strong United Nations and other rules-based international institutions; better cooperation between the established powers and other important actors such as China, India and Brazil. This cooperation also needs to be more transparent and have better democratic legitimacy in the eyes of our people.
We need comprehensive understanding and effective action in tackling global challenges. This requires burden sharing and contributions from all states and a broad range of stakeholders.
European Union needed as an actor
The European Union has contributed its fair share. Without the efforts of the EU, many global processes of key importance might not have started or produced results. Take for example the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, the International Criminal Court, the upholding of international efforts in the Middle East peace process, or the launching of the Doha Round at the WTO. These are relevant examples also because many of these processes or their follow-up are stalling or need reinforcement. This cannot be blamed on the EU, but we have to recognize that the leadership shown by the EU is weaker today than it has been at its best, and certainly in relation to what is needed.
The EU is needed as an efficient actor, when the international community responds to global challenges. It is in the EU’s evident self interest to respond to challenges in her own neighborhood. These include environmental, social, legal and migration related challenges, but also challenges pertinent to peace mediation and conflict resolution.
The EU itself is facing trying times. European states have to carry out painful economic reforms. Large-scale demonstrations are back in some countries. Demonstrations are legitimate and a healthy part of democratic societies, but worryingly they are not always peaceful. Populism and nationalist sentiments are on the rise in several countries in Europe. What is the future of the EU, you may ask. And whether you are a citizen of an EU member state or not, you may ask yourself how much of the future of your country should lay with the EU.
Before trying to answer those questions, let me take a leap back in time. Having a background as a historian, I always stress the importance of knowing one’s history, because those who don’t know how they have arrived to where they are will not know how to move forward either.
Without condemning entire nations or entire groups of people, one has to recognize the violence our part of the world has inflicted on itself and on the rest of the world over the centuries when narrowly defined interests and nationalism dominated our thinking. This all culminated in two world wars with no comparison in world history, but there were also countless other conflicts, including colonial wars far away. Not to mention something – despite of your young age – more familiar to you: regional wars and protracted conflicts that have been stifling the development in this region for two decades.
The 1950’s were a turning point. Europeans chose co-operation and peaceful integration, starting with the Coal and Steel Community. As economic integration advanced, more and more countries found it to be in their interest to join the community. By the time Finland joined the EU in 1995, the European project had become an openly political union. Since then, a Common Foreign and Security Policy has been established for the EU and later, as a part of it, Common Security and Defence Policy. Thanks to all these cumulative developments our part of the world had by the beginning of the 21st century become known as an anchor of stability in the world.
Landmark decisions in European integration were often taken in times of crisis. For instance, Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy grew out of the frustration caused by the inability to act effectively in the Western Balkans crisis. What was first proclaimed ”The Hour of Europe” turned out to be the darkest hour of Post-War Europe. Member States like the UK and France have given the essential input as the EU has developed more robust military capabilities in crisis management. Other countries, such as Sweden and Finland, have given the impetus for developing civilian crisis management capabilities.
Today, EU’s role in global affairs is weakened by a general state of integration and enlargement fatigue as well as the debt crisis. This fatigue can be overcome, but there is no institutional trick available to do it. The only way is to once again revive the political will to act together.
For that, I think we need to do three things that need not be bureaucratic, ideological or conferring new powers to the EU. First, make better use of the existing Treaties. Second, continue work on EU’s enlargement. And third, increase our responsiveness to the concerns of our citizens. Let me explain each of these three points in more detail.
First, make better use of the existing Treaties. From a Finnish perspective, more effort is needed to implement the Lisbon Treaty in the area of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including EU’s role in conflict prevention and resolution. The strengthened role of the High Representative and the new European External Action Service are welcome. They need to be supported by the member states in order to increase the level of activity of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The EU has to improve its strategic level guidance. Clarity of vision is needed on how the EU intends to make coherent use of its various instruments to advance its goals and how the EU intends to make use of the possibilities brought along by the Lisbon Treaty.
My second point on the way forward for the EU was to continue the enlargement. It has spread peace and stability in Europe – the so-called European perspective has been a major stabilization tool in the Western Balkans.
Croatia will soon become the 28th member state which is a positive signal to all Western Balkan countries. Hopefully, it would also give them a boost to continue not only important reforms but also the reconciliation process and regional co-operation.
Finland is a firm supporter of the EU’s enlargement process and hence also of the Eastern Partnership. Finland has been able make significant contributions in this area, notably when during the Finnish Presidency in 1999 Turkey was granted official status as a candidate country for accession. This work has to continue on the basis that while the acceding country must fulfill the criteria, also the EU has to keep its commitments. It is of strategic European interest that membership in the Union remains attractive to Turkey and other third countries.
Fully aware of the general sentiments towards Turkey in Yerevan, we nevertheless firmly believe Turkey’s membership would be beneficial also to her neighborhood, including Armenia – EU is a stability project.
My third point on the way forward for the EU is to increase our responsiveness to the concerns of our citizens, to have more transparency and democracy. This should start with explaining again the origins and the continuing benefits of European integration. Views in Europe converge on so many issues, and especially on the ones that really count for the future of our citizens. It is in the interest of EU citizens, that the EU’s soft power is used in trade negotiations for their benefit. And that a response to their concerns on climate change, continuing poverty in least developed countries, violations of human rights, lack of gender equality and conflict prevention, just to name a few examples, are advanced by the EU.
European integration also has its limits. The EU does not have the need, ambition nor means to become a military Super-Power. The EU as a sui generis kind of organization – less than a federal state, but with a large degree of supranational decision-making and pooled sovereignty – is unique in its capacity to use a variety of different instruments, including trade, economic and development cooperation and comprehensive crisis management instruments. One relatively recently developed strength in the EU’s toolkit is civilian crisis management capabilities for which there is much demand in the world today.
The Nordic model
A more coherent European role will complement the bilateral relations of each country as well as the work done on multilateral forums such as the OSCE and Council of Europe. There is a well functioning political framework and security architecture in Europe where each organization has its relative strength.
However, there is still room for increased cooperation on regional basis. The Nordic countries have actually since the 1950’s set an example for wider European integration with its many innovations such as passport free travel, a common labor market and local election voting rights for citizens of Nordic countries living in another Nordic country. There is also a long tradition of cooperation in UN crisis management missions, with recent examples from the UN mandated EU and NATO operations.
In a meeting in Helsinki last April, the Nordic Foreign Ministers declared their countries intention to cooperate in a spirit of solidarity in meeting the challenges of foreign and security policy. Foreseeable security threats include for example natural and man-made disasters, and cyber and terrorist attacks. Should a Nordic country be affected, the others will, upon request from that country, assist with relevant means. The intensified Nordic cooperation will be undertaken fully in line with each country’s security and defense policy and complement existing European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation.
The tragic events on the island of Utøya in Norway last summer, reinforced the sentiment of communality and solidarity across the Nordic area. Norwegians showed us an encouraging and admirable example of upholding democracy and the rule of law when these values come under a direct attack. In fact their response was more democracy and more openness in the aftermath of the horrible attacks.
Looking ahead, prospects for deepening Nordic cooperation are favorable. Furthermore, Nordic cooperation could also serve as a model in the wider European context. I am also thinking about your region in a longer term perspective.
The Nordic welfare state model, based on combining transparent market economy with equality and social well-being, can offer ideas also for efforts to respond to global and European challenges in many regions and countries, including Armenia. Nordic countries have undergone deep and often painful reforms to overcome difficult economic times, and have shown a model of solidarity when for example Iceland was hit by a crisis.
At the global level, Nordic countries promote free and fair trade, based on upholding and developing the current universal WTO-based regime, in a way that recognizes and supports the needs of the least developed countries. Nordic countries favour setting high standards for democracy, human rights, core labour standards, as well as environmental and consumer protection. Our model does not focus narrowly on increased short-term economic productivity but also on sustainability and well-being of citizens, thus maintaining long-term competitiveness and positive incentives for stability in the society.
Foreign and security policy in the Nordic countries has been based on pragmatism; on values, not ideologies; and on openness to international co-operation. Hopefully there is something in that spirit which could be replicated in the Wider European space to revive the will to work together for a more stable and prosperous Europe. That is in the interest of all European states. And each one is needed to shape our common Europe to be what we all want it to be. This is also what our citizens deserve.
Thank you for your attention.